Ole Miss came into this matchup against Auburn on a three-game losing streak, culminating in the blowout from the hands of a fast-paced Alabama team. The Rebels, like other times this season, find their back against a wall.
With three games left after the 67-58 loss against Auburn, the Rebels sit at 13-15 and rank 13th in the SEC, right above Vanderbilt. With no chance of going to the Big Dance in March, little to no chance of making the NIT and a run through the SEC tournament unlikely, it leaves the question: what is wrong with this Ole Miss basketball team, and how can they fix it in the off-season?
When looking at this team on paper, it does not seem as if things should be as bad, but they have been. It has been more of an issue of fit than anything else. It seems that nobody could have predicted the impact of Terrance Davis making the jump to the league.
It could get worse for the Rebels; leading scorer Breein Tyree is graduating and will most likely leave a similar Davis-sized hole in the roster. With Devontae Shuler and Khadim Sy being questionable to return, and a recruiting class coming in with only two commits being guards, the Rebels have a rough battle with recruiting two key players.
Their struggles on the road have been key as well. While the Rebels have played well while supported by the fans in the Pavilion, they have dropped eight on the road and only picked up a road win against the one-man show — Anthony Edwards — at Georgia.
They have had to depend way too much on guard play and have not had a dominating force in the middle that seems almost now necessary to have a successful college basketball team.
The team has shuffled through Dude Collum and Sy, who have had their struggles. With head coach Kermit Davis’s prominent use of quick substitutions, neither player has had the opportunity to get on a roll.
Last time Ole Miss and Auburn met, it ended in a double-overtime game in favor of the Tigers that, by all accounts, the Rebels should have won. Though they suffered a rough one-point loss, they were able to use this game to somewhat reinvigorate themselves winning key games against Mississippi State and Florida in dominating fashion.
In this game, the Rebels kept the score tight and went into halftime down seven, and in the second half, they never let the lead grow into double digits for long. The key difference in this game, as in comparison to the last time these two squared off, was the play of Auburn’s Austin Wiley.
In the end, the team ended up dropping this game in classic-Ole-Miss fashion. The Rebels came out of this one gearing up to take on the only conference opponent worse than them: Vanderbilt.
Though this season is virtually over for the Rebels, they will hope to win out and beat rival Mississippi State in Starkville during their season closer.